Fort Worth

Man who killed three in Fort Worth is first execution of 2017

Death Row inmates in Texas are strapped to a gurney to receive a lethal dose of drugs.
Death Row inmates in Texas are strapped to a gurney to receive a lethal dose of drugs. AP archives

A man who went on a two-day killing spree in Fort Worth and who testified that he had “been trying to get myself killed since I was 12 or 13 years old” is the first person to be put to death in the U.S. in 2017.

Christopher Chubasco Wilkins, 48, was pronounced dead at 6:39 p.m., 13 minutes after being given a lethal injection of pentobarbital, The Associated Press reported

Wilkins was the first of four men from Tarrant County scheduled to be put to death in Texas in 2017, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected his Death Row appeal in the afternoon, and his attorney Hilary Sheard said she had no plans to file any last-minute appeals.

Before the drug was administered, Wilkins twice mouthed “I’m sorry” to two relatives of one of the murder victims as they watched through a window. He gave no final statement, a Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman said.

Wilkins has been on Death Row since March 12, 2008. He was convicted of capital murder by a Tarrant County jury for fatally shooting Willie Freeman and Mike Silva on Oct. 28, 2005. He also admitted in a taped confession that he killed Gilbert Vallejo, 47, a day earlier outside a south-side bar during a dispute about a payphone.

240 People executed by lethal injection in Texas since 1982

During his trial, Wilkins testified and admitted to his crimes, saying he didn’t care whether he received life in prison or the death penalty.

Jurors took 90 minutes to decide he should die. But Wilkins later changed his mind and appealed his execution, initially scheduled for October 2015.

His attorneys, Sheard and Seth Waxman, argued in their appeal to the Supreme Court that he received ineffective counsel from his previous lawyers during his trial and in the appeals process.

“The attorneys who represented Wilkins produced [an appeal] that had no chance whatsoever of benefiting the client and it was produced at a great cost to Tarrant County taxpayers,” Sheard said Wednesday.

‘I don’t care’

Wilkins arrived in Fort Worth in 2005 after stealing a pickup truck in Houston, where he was living in a halfway house. He had been released from a federal prison in California earlier that year.

Christopher Chubasco Wilkins, 48, was the first person executed this year in the United States and the first of four men from Tarrant County scheduled to be put to death in Texas in 2017.

Wilkins told jurors he killed Freeman because Freeman ripped him off in a drug deal and laughed at him. Freeman’s friend, Silva, was killed because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Prosecutors presented evidence that Wilkins decided to kill Freeman after Freeman tricked Wilkins into paying $20 for a piece of gravel that Freeman passed off as crack cocaine, court documents stated. Wilkins told Freeman he had a stash of drugs and guns across town and Silva agreed to drive them there.

Wilkins shot Freeman in the back of the head during the trip on Oct. 28, 2005, and shot Silva three times as he tried to escape, according to appeals court documents.

Vallejo was killed because he made Wilkins mad.

Wilkins also said he nearly killed two more people — about a week after killing Freeman and Silva — when he ran them down on a sidewalk in a stolen car.

During his trial, he made no excuses.

“You can consider drugs if you want to,” Wilkins told jurors in 2008. “But I wouldn’t put too much weight on that. When I get wound up, I have a fuse that is short. I don’t think about what I am doing. I don’t care.”

Texas adopted lethal injection as means of execution in 1977 and executed its first offender — Charlie Brooks of Tarrant County — by lethal injection Dec. 7, 1982.

He was covered with tattoos, including images of demons, swastikas, even a portrait of Adolf Hitler, but told jurors they were mostly “just hype” and used as protection in prison.

“Look, butterflies and flowers don’t work,” he said.

When asked if he wanted to die, Wilkins thought for a second, then replied that he had nothing to live for.

“I haven’t been any good to anybody for the last 20 years and I won’t be for the next 20 or the 20 after that,” Wilkins said.

Wilkins’ testimony should be viewed as something that came from a person with brain damage, Sheard said. Psychological experts indicated that Wilkins had multiple head injuries and was exposed to LSD as a child, but that information was never provided to a jury, Sheard said.

“Now, because he will be dead soon, we will never know,” she said.

Wes Ball, one of Wilkins’ trial lawyers, described him as “candid to a degree you don’t see,” and had hoped his appearance on the witness stand would have made jurors like him, the AP reported.

“It didn’t work,” Ball told the AP.

“This guy is the classic outlaw in the model of Billy the Kid, an Old West-style outlaw,” Kevin Rousseau, the Tarrant County assistant district attorney who prosecuted Wilkins, told the AP.

Downward trend

Twenty convicted killers were executed in the U.S. last year, the lowest number since the early 1980s, according to the AP. That tally includes seven executions in Texas, the fewest in the state since 1996. Wilkins is among nine Texas inmates scheduled to die in the early months of 2017.

Kristin Houle, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said Texas scheduled several executions at the beginning of last year but many were postponed or stayed.

The downward trend in executions has not abated, and every year jurors, prosecutors and appellate justices send fewer people to the lethal-injection chamber.

“The reason varies by case,” Houle said. “Questions about DNA, faulty science, prosecutorial misconduct — all these things are giving courts more pause than they used to.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives and The Associated Press.

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3

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Other Tarrant County men on Death Row

Tilon Carter, 37, is set for execution Feb. 7 for the robbery and 2004 slaying of James Tomlin, 89, a Bell Helicopter retiree. Prosecutors said Carter and his girlfriend, Leketha Allen, went to Tomlin’s home to rob him and took $6,000. Allen was sentenced to 25 years.

James Bigby, 61, is set to die March 14. In 1987, the former Kennedale auto mechanic fatally shot Mike Trekell and drowned Trekell’s 4-month-old son, Jayson, in a bathroom sink. Bigby was also suspected of killing Clavin Crane of Fort Worth and Frank Johnson of Arlington.

Paul Storey, 32, is scheduled to be executed April 12. Storey was convicted of killing Hurst Putt-Putt assistant manager Jonas Cherry, who was shot in the head and legs as he begged for his life during a robbery in 2006. Accomplice Mark Porter pleaded guilty to capital murder and received a life sentence.

Source: Texas Department of Corrections

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